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‘Sweatshops’ attacked over Primark sales leap

02 November 2009, Press releases

NEWS PEG: Tuesday, 3 November 2009 Primark expected to report strong growth in full-year figures

EMBARGO: 00.01 hrs GMT, Tuesday 3 November 2009


Britain's leading cheap fashion retailer, Primark, today faced accusations of cashing in on the recession by exploiting overseas workers producing its clothes.

Amid reports that the retailer this morning will announce 7-8 per cent growth, anti-poverty charity War on Want claimed employees in three Bangladeshi factories toiled up to 80-hour weeks for as little as 7p an hour.

This attack came as Primark prepared to open a new store in Cambridge on Friday (6 November) and another at Wood Green in London on 12 November. In addition, the retailer has also earmarked a site for a new Edinburgh branch 30 per cent bigger than its original location. It is also reported to plan a massive store in a huge £675 million extension to a Cardiff shopping centre. War on Want contrasts the store's 100,000 square feet of space with the tiny 100 square feet slum homes Primark garment workers share with four or five family members in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka. And while Primark nears almost 200 stores in five countries - profits last year grew 17 per cent to £233 million during the 12 months ending in September - rising food prices are deepening poverty for its Bangladeshi garment workers.

Simon McRae, senior campaigns officer at the charity, said: "Primark is booming in the recession by keeping clothes prices so low at a terrible cost to its garment workers' living standards. Letting the retailers police themselves has failed to ensure workers decent pay and conditions. Now Gordon Brown must act to stop this abuse."

The criticism from War on Want coincides with the biggest-ever call for British government action to stop fashion retailers exploiting overseas workers. Thousands of people have already signed up to the charity's Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign for 50,000 names demanding that Brown regulates the industry.

The push is also endorsed by television star Jo Wood, pop singer Little Boots, actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Ashley Jensen and clothes designer Betty Jackson. Among other backers are TV personality Tony Robinson, actor-playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, comedians Jo Brand and Francesca Martinez and gardener Bob Flowerdew. Supportive public figures include Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of Unite, the UK's largest trade union, Mary Turner, president of the GMB union, Safia Minney, director of fair trade fashion company People Tree, Queen's Counsel Michael Mansfield, the leading human rights lawyer, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, journalist John Pilger and cartoonist Martin Rowson.

People can add their names on the campaign's website at www.lovefashionhatesweatshops.org


NOTE TO EDITORS

According to War on Want research, workers making clothes for Primark in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka received on average only £19.16 (2280 taka) a month, under half a living wage. Some employees were paid only the minimum wage, £13.97 (1663 taka) a month, far less than the £44.82 (5333 taka) needed to escape dire hardship. The vast majority of employees live in small, crowded shacks, many of which lack plumbing and adequate washing facilities. Though forced overtime is illegal in Bangladesh, employees said they were made to toil extra hours, often unpaid. Workers complained that in the fast fashion rush to produce the latest styles, many of them suffered verbal and physical abuse as they struggled to meet unrealistic targets. Yet the Dhaka workers said none of their factories was unionised. Ifat, who toils in a factory supplying all three retailers, said: "I can't feed my children three meals a day."

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

 

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Jo Wood gives boost to Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops

28 October 2009, Latest news

Good news for Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops! Jo Wood, a TV celebrity and founder of a line of organic skin products, has joined thousands of Britons by demanding government action to put an end to fashion retailers exploiting overseas workers.

Along with putting her name to our call, Wood, a former model, also posed in LFHS gear for our ever popular supporter gallery.

Jo has visited Bangladesh, where many thousands of garment workers slave away to make clothes for leading UK shops. "The conditions that they lived in in the slums were appalling: the rubbish, the smell and the poverty. Up to six people live in a tin room on bamboo stilts above heaps of rubbish. Yet I was humbled by the people and their attitudes."

We're excited to have received this endorsement, and to have such an outpouring of support nationwide. If you haven't already signed up to the campaign and added your photo to our gallery, please do so today.

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'Keep pressure on Honduras' call to EU

28 October 2009, Press releases

NEWS PEG: Four months on since the military coup in Honduras

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Tags: campaigns | honduras | overseas work | sweatshops & plantations

   

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7p an hour protest targets Primark

27 October 2009, Press releases

NEWS PEG: Thursday, 12 November 2009 Primark opens its new London store

Storm over 'sweatshops' faces new store

Primark opens its new London store next month amid claims that Britain's leading cheap fashion retailer is expanding by exploiting overseas garment workers.

The Wood Green store launches on 12 November as a charity warns that people making Primark clothes earn as little as 7p an hour.

War on Want plans to protest when Primark opens its doors at the Mall, known as Shopping City, in the High Road. It compares Bangladeshi workers' poverty pay for up to 80-hour weeks with the retailer's 21 per cent sales growth in the 16 weeks to 20 June and 10 per cent rise in profits to £122 million during the six months ending in February. The charity also contrasts the store's 75,000 square feet of space on two floors with the tiny 100 square feet slum homes Primark garment workers share with four or five family members.

War on Want is targeting the Wood Green opening to step up the biggest-ever call for British government action to stop fashion retailers exploiting overseas workers. Thousands of people have already signed up to the Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign for 50,000 names demanding that UK prime minister Gordon Brown regulates the industry.

The push is also endorsed by television star Jo Wood, pop singer Little Boots, actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Ashley Jensen and clothes designer Betty Jackson. Among other backers are TV personality Tony Robinson, actor-playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, comedians Jo Brand and Francesca Martinez and gardener Bob Flowerdew.

Supportive public figures include Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of Unite, the UK's largest trade union, Mary Turner, president of the GMB union, Queen's Counsel Michael Mansfield, the leading human rights lawyer, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, journalist John Pilger and cartoonist Martin Rowson.

War on Want campaigner Seb Klier said: "By the end of the year Primark will have grown to almost 200 stores in five countries. But for many Bangladeshis producing its clothes their grim living standards are falling even lower as costs rise. It is high time Brown introduced regulation to stop this abuse."

According to War on Want research, workers making clothes for Primark in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka received on average only £19.16 (2280 taka) a month, under half a living wage. Some employees were paid only the minimum wage, £13.97 (1663 taka) a month, far less than the £44.82 (5333 taka) needed to escape dire hardship. The vast majority of employees live in small, crowded shacks, many of which lack plumbing and adequate washing facilities.Though forced overtime is illegal in Bangladesh, employees said they were made to toil extra hours, often unpaid. Workers complained that in the fast fashion rush to produce the latest styles, many of them suffered verbal and physical abuse as they struggled to meet unrealistic targets. Yet the Dhaka workers said none of their factories was unionised.

Lina earns just £16 (1850 taka) a month, toiling 12 hours a day producing clothes for Primark.

"It is not enough," she said. "I can only afford to live in one room with my husband, two-year-old boy and mother-in-law."

Ifat, who also works toils in a Primark factory, said: "I can't feed my children three meals a day."


NOTE TO EDITORS: The War on Want protest will take place from 9.00-10.00 am outside Primark's new store at Unit 57, The Mall, 159 High Road, Wood Green, London N22 6YQ

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

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A straight answer

26 October 2009, Latest news

By now many of you will have seen email replies from seven of the fashion companies we've targeted in our speak out campaign to CEOs. Every response, however, avoids answering our basic question: Why haven't you taken steps to ensure the workers who supply your clothes earn a living wage?

Their replies have skirted the issue by emphasising their CSR policies, which are purely voluntary and thus impossible to enforce. Their emails also mention social audits carried out by companies. But our research has shown that such audits almost never tell the real story of factory abuse and exploitation.

So what's our next step? We're going send a follow-up letter demanding answers - and again we need your support. Please take a moment to write again to these fashion CEOs. They thought they could get away with not answering your question. Now's our chance to prove them wrong.

Your support so far has been unbelievable. Let's continue to apply pressure, and get the answers we deserve.

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Jo Wood steps up sweatshops war

22 October 2009, Press releases

Star picture boosts largest ethical fashion drive

Television star Jo Wood today put her best foot forward by joining Britons who have posed for photographs to support the biggest-ever call for British government action to stop fashion retailers exploiting overseas workers.

She boosted a drive for 50,000 names demanding that UK prime minister Gordon Brown regulates the industry.

The former model, who now runs a business selling organic skin care products, features among thousands of people already signed up to the Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign run by the anti-poverty charity War on Want.

Jo was shocked by garment workers' hardship when she visited the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka with fair trade fashion company People Tree.

She said: "The conditions that they lived in in the slums were appalling: the rubbish, the smell and the poverty. Up to six people live in a tin room on bamboo stilts above heaps of rubbish. Yet I was humbled by the people and their attitudes."

Ruth Tanner, campaigns and policy director at War on Want, said: "Our charity is thrilled Jo spared us the time from her busy schedule to pose for a photograph and indebted to her for such commitment to this cause. We hope many others will follow her example."

People can add their names and pictures on the campaign's website at http://www.lovefashionhatesweatshops.org

According to War on Want research, workers making clothes for Primark, Tesco and Asda factories in Dhaka received on average only £19.16 (2280 taka) a month, under half a living wage. Some employees were paid only the minimum wage, £13.97 (1663 taka) a month, far less than the £44.82 (5333 taka) needed to escape dire hardship.

The vast majority of employees live in small, crowded shacks, many of which lack plumbing and adequate washing facilities.Though forced overtime is illegal in Bangladesh, employees said they were made to toil extra hours, often unpaid. Workers complained that in the fast fashion rush to produce the latest styles, many of them suffered verbal and physical abuse as they struggled to meet unrealistic targets. Yet the Dhaka workers said none of their factories was unionised.

Lina earns just £16 (1850 taka) a month, toiling 12 hours a day producing Tesco clothes.

"It is not enough," she said. "I can only afford to live in one room with my husband, two-year-old boy and mother-in-law."

Ifat, who toils in a factory supplying Primark, Tesco and Asda, said: "I can't feed my children three meals a day."

The Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops push is also endorsed by pop singer Little Boots, actors Gael Garcia Bernal and Ashley Jensen and clothes designer Betty Jackson.

Among other backers are television personality Tony Robinson, actor-playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, comedians Jo Brand and Francesca Martinez and gardener Bob Flowerdew.

Supportive public figures include Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of Unite, the UK's largest trade union, Mary Turner, president of the GMB union, Queen's Counsel Michael Mansfield, the leading human rights lawyer, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, journalist John Pilger and cartoonist Martin Rowson.

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

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Tags: campaigns | love fashion hate sweatshops | supermarkets & sweatshops

   

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Bangladeshi workers take the fight for a living wage to the streets

21 October 2009, Latest news

This weekend several hundred Bangladeshi garment workers formed a human chain to protest against poverty wages, urging the government to fix their minimum wage at Tk 5,000 per month.

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Stop private armies!

20 October 2009, Previous events

War on Want organised a stunt outside the British Association of Private Security Companies AGM in London this morning.
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On the front line

19 October 2009, Latest news

This weekend several hundred Bangladeshi garment workers formed a human chain to protest against poverty wages.

Amirul Haque Amin, president of the National Garment Workers' Federation, the trade union that organised the protest, stated that the monthly minimum wage must be raised to TK 5,000 a month so that workers can feed themselves and their families. The current minimum wage is Tk 1,662 per month, which is roughly £15.

While the NGWF focuses largely on changing national legislation, it also takes aim at multinational business practices, whose race-to-the-bottom tactics drive down wages.

The Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops campaign takes its lead from grassroots organisations like the NGWF, a War on Want partner organisation which represents over 22,000 workers across Bangladesh. We support their efforts at achieving a living wage for workers, recognising that groups on the ground are best positioned to take forward the fight against sweatshop exploitation. You can show your support for their work by signing our call for an end to sweatshops in Bangladesh and all other parts of the world where workers are exploited for profit.

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‘Licence to kill for private armies’

19 October 2009, Press releases

NEWS HOOK

London - Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Ex-British defence and home secretary John Reid - now group consultant to G4S, including ArmorGroup, which is hired by the UK government in Afghanistan - addresses the annual conference of the British Association of Private Security Companies

EMBARGO: 00.01 hrs, Tuesday 20 October 2009


Government condemned for failure to regulate private military and security companies

WHEN? 8.45-9.15 am BST, Tuesday, 20 October 2009

WHERE? Royal Institute of British Architects, 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD (nearest Tube stations: Great Portland Street, Regents Park and Oxford Circus)

WHAT? A campaigner dressed as Gordon Brown will hand over money to "armed" mercenaries, as War on Want protests against the government's failure to regulate private military and security companies.

War on Want today condemned the British government for giving UK private military and security companies a licence to kill by refusing to regulate the industry. Campaigners from the charity will demonstrate this morning outside the annual conference of the British Association of Private Security Companies which takes place in central London.

War on Want will protest against government plans to let private military and security companies police themselves, despite widespread human rights abuses by mercenary troops. The demonstration comes as the government is due to announce the outcome of consultation on its proposal for a voluntary code of conduct overseen by the BAPSC, the industry body.

A keynote speech at the conference will be made by John Reid, the former UK defence and home secretary, now a £50,000 group consultant to G4S, including ArmorGroup, hired by the British government in Afghanistan and Iraq. ArmorGroup hit the headlines in August when one of its contractors shot and killed two colleagues in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

The protest takes place only days after the second anniversary of an incident in Iraq when guards from the British private military and security firm Erinys International fired on a taxi, badly wounding three Iraqi civilians near Kirkuk.

Amid hundreds of cases of human rights abuse by mercenaries, War on Want is spearheading the campaign for tough legislation, including a ban on their use in combat and combat support. The charity is calling for all PMSCs to be subjected to individual parliamentary approved licences. It is also demanding for any government ministry which outsources a service to a PMSC to be held responsible for the firm's conduct and for all allegations of human rights abuses by contractors working for PMSCs to be independently investigated.

As the war in Afghanistan escalates and UK prime minister Gordon Brown prepares to send more British troops to the country, War on Want warns that the government is spending millions of pounds on PMSCs and risking civilian lives in Afghanistan by failing to regulate the industry.

Yasmin Khan, senior campaigns officer at the charity, said: "The government has ignored all regulatory options in favour of a voluntary code of conduct for private armies. This is giving a licence to kill to private military and security companies. The proposed voluntary code of conduct flies in the face of the growing consensus on the need to regulate this deadly industry. More lives in war zones will be put at risk unless the government acts to regulate private armies now."

The UK government has spent £148 million on PMSC contracts in Afghanistan and Iraq over the last three years. The government currently has contracts with PMSCs in Afghanistan worth more than £42 million from the beginning of 2008 to the end of this year, more than twice the figure for Iraq in the same period.

With Britain having the second largest PMSC industry in the world. UK private military and security firms now operating in Afghanistan include Olive, PAGE associates, Saladin Security, AEGIS, ArmorGroup, Blue Hackle, Control Risks Group, Edinburgh International, Global Security and IDG Security.


NOTE TO EDITORS:

  • The BAPSC was established in 2006 as an industry association body that works to promote the interests of private military and security companies. The conference will also hear keynote addresses from the former Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Andy Hayman and Sir Jeremy Greenstock ex-UK special representative to Iraq
  • Earlier this year the government published a consultation on its proposed voluntary code for PMSCs. It has so far failed to announced the results of the consultation.

CONTACT: Paul Collins, War on Want media office (+44) (0)20 7549 0584 or (+44) (0)7983 550728

 

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A food fight with global implications

16 October 2009, Latest news

» Original article in The Morning Star

Friday is World Food Day. It's a UN initiative to raise global awareness about food security for the world's poorest.

And the issue of global hunger has never been more urgent. For the first time in history, more than one billion people live in hunger.

Each day 25,000 people starve to death or die from an illness caused by hunger. Shockingly, many of those who actually produce the food have been hit the hardest. Three-quarters of the world's hungry live in rural areas, of whom the overwhelming majority are farmers in poor countries.

While environmental catastrophes such as drought exacerbate the plight of the rural poor, the main causes of poverty and hunger in the developing world are man-made.

The economic hardship facing many farmers can be attributed to the free trade policy prescriptions championed by the World Trade Organisation (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. Even though they are unaccountable to the broader international community, these institutions wield enormous influence over the agricultural policies of developing nations.

To drive forward their strategy of "trade-based food security," the IMF and WTO have forced developing nations to open up their markets to food imports and reorient their economies towards an export-based system.

Exposed to direct competition from giant agribusiness, small farmers in the global south have struggled to stay afloat. And under the trade terms established by the WTO, agribusiness firms are increasingly able to sell their products to consumers in developing nations at a low price, undercutting small-scale farmers who rely on domestic markets.

As well as being thrust into competition with large farming firms, poor farmers are being squeezed by corporate sales practices. When farmers in the global south purchase seeds developed by corporations, they are often forced to sign a contract obliging them to buy fertiliser from the same firm, often at an inflated price.

Farmers have little choice but to buy crop products offered by Western firms. Under intellectual property rules written by the WTO, corporations now own 98 per cent of the patents covering vital farming inputs. Armed with patents for a vast array of seeds, livestock breeds and other essential organisms, agribusiness can dictate the terms under which local communities grow their food.

The most harmful range of farming products currently on the market are genetically modified (GM) crops. Promoted by agribusiness as a silver bullet in the fight against global hunger, GM crops are in fact more expensive to grow and produce poorer yields. Despite the harm these crops can cause, the GM revolution has gained momentum in recent years, leading to a massive boom for firms like Monsanto and Syngenta.

Although the export-based system of food production has kept millions of small farmers in poverty, world leaders have refused to try a different model. Instead, governments have invested heavily in projects that seek to train small farmers in poor countries as entrepreneurs to compete in the global marketplace.

Yet an alternative to the current approach is taking root. Across the developing world, grass-roots organisations are challenging corporate farming practices and the model of production for export.

Based on the principle of local control over resources, the food sovereignty movement prioritises the needs of small-scale farmers over the profits of big business. This new concept recognises that the key to fighting global poverty lies in community ownership, sustainable agricultural policies and workers' rights.

From Sri Lanka to South Africa, Brazil to Mozambique, these local organisations - many of them partners of War on Want - are successfully building communities of self-sufficient farmers.

A leading voice in the food sovereignty movement is La Via Campesina. With members across 56 countries on five continents, it represents millions of small farmers and gives them a political platform to challenge the corporate model for farming.

By promoting local alternatives such as community markets and farming collectives, these groups of small farmers are able to protect their livelihoods from the impossible demands of a world market whose rules are stacked against them.

They are also promoting organic methods as an alternative to destructive corporate farming products like GM crops.

Taken together, these measures will help define food as a resource to be owned and shared locally - and not as a commodity to be traded and profited from on the global market.


Jesse Lerner-Kinglake is Communications Officer at War on Want.

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24,000 emails say: end sweatshop labour

14 October 2009, Latest news

Thanks to your efforts, we have sent Britain's worst fashion companies a strong message - more than 24,000 of them, in fact. And their reaction has shown just what a difference you can make.

Britain's most profitable fashion companies have arrogantly ignored campaigns demanding that they stop exploiting the workers who make their clothes. Companies that didn't respond to Labour Behind the Label's questions in their report have been forced to answer due to your emails.

As 24,000 emails landed in the inboxes of the 15 bosses that were identified as the worst abusers of sweatshop labour, some of them finally gave in and issued a reply to the thousands of you who have written to them this week. John Lewis, Alexon and BHS have now at least acknowledged an issue that they had hoped would just go away - for the past four years they refused to even engage with Labour Behind the Label's investigation.

It proves that campaigning works. But there's a lot more we need to do. Many of these companies are still ignoring us, and even those who are not are still far from taking the action needed to actually solve the problem. So if you haven't emailed them yet, do so now. And if you have - take two minutes to tell your friends, family and colleagues to do the same. Because we know it works.

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10,000 emails sent … and counting

08 October 2009, Latest news

The pace of your work is unbelievable. Following the launch of Let's Clean Up Fashion 2009, we asked people to send emails to the CEOs of top fashion brands expressing outrage over their failure to ensure a living wage for their workers. It's been just 24 hours, but the heads of Asda, River Island, Matalan and other leading shops have been flooded with over 10,000 emails. Your response has been extraordinary - and it will make a difference.

We're doing our part. It's time they did theirs. But we need to keep the pressure on. If you haven't sent a letter to a CEO, do so now. And if you have, get your friends and family to participate.

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Free Mohammad Othman: War on Want demonstration

08 October 2009, Previous events

On Thursday 8 October, War on Want and students from Goldsmiths College organised a demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy in London demanding that Muhammad Othman be freed immediately.

 

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Bringing the Occupation home

08 October 2009, Latest news

» Original article in La Bouche

The last year has seen a huge shift in popular support for the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel. Yasmin Khan from War on Want explores what this campaign means and why it could be the most powerful strategy yet to bring peace and justice to the Middle East.

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